New Delhi: The recent statistics revealed by the health ministry on CoVID-19 cases show 4,291 of total 14,378 cases relate to Nizamuddin Markaz. We should remember that the national testing rate for CoVID-19 in India is only 93 per million population.
Economists have identified ‘Sampling bias’ involved in the testing process, which was reprehensibly ignored by several mainstream media houses while reporting cases linked to Tableeghi. In a report published by Scroll on 7th April, 2020, Saugato Datta, a behavioural and developmental economist explains, “This is basically sampling bias: since people from this one cluster have been tested at very high rates, and overall testing is low, it is hardly surprising that a large proportion of overall positives is attributed to this cluster.”
In simple words, if you test more people from one group, you will have more positive cases in that specific group. In technical language, this is known as Sampling bias. In the context of the Tableeghi categorization, this is how the sampling error changes the game. The national testing rates for CoVID-19 is 93 per million population. However, in the case of TJ, it is almost 100%—which means every Tableeghi has been tested. This decodes the higher positivity observed in the Tableegh Jamaat cohort.
“A lot of the press has ignored this basic rule of reporting statistics, thus tending to sensationalize, and more importantly, misreport the figures,” explained Joyojeet Pal, Associate Professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information.
Sadly, this sampling error coupled with fake news has led many to conclude that participants associated with the Nizamuddin Markaz event were the mass spreader. In this pandemic, the entire world is coming together to fight as one against novel coronavirus. Unfortunately, the Tableeghi group and Muslims in India are vilified, mentally castigated, and blamed for a surge in cases based on such misreporting.
Mohammed Zuhair is a research scholar at Monash University, Melbourne.